Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People and Education Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Buffy Williams
James Evans
Jayne Bryant Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Ken Skates
Laura Anne Jones
Sioned Williams

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Simon Pirotte Ymgeisydd a ffefrir ar gyfer swydd Prif Weithredwr y Comisiwn Addysg Drydyddol ac Ymchwil
Preferred candidate for the post of Chief Executive of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lucy Morgan Ymchwilydd
Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Naomi Stocks Clerc
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Tom Lewis-White Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:31.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:31.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg heddiw.

Welcome to this meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee.

I'd like to welcome all Members to the meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee this morning. The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and the Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. We have received no apologies this morning. Are there any declarations of interest from Members? Sioned.

Mae fy ngŵr yn gyflogedig gan Brifysgol Abertawe.

My husband is employed by Swansea University.

2. Gwrandawiad cyn-penodi Prif Weithredwr y Comisiwn Addysg Drydyddol ac Ymchwil
2. Pre-appointment hearing for Chief Executive of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research

We'll move on to the first item on our agenda, which is the pre-appointment hearing for the chief executive of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research. I'd like to welcome the preferred candidate here this morning. I don't know if you'd like to introduce yourself to us.

Diolch yn fawr. Simon Pirotte ydw i. 

Thank you very much. I'm Simon Pirotte.

I'm currently principal of Bridgend College.

Diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much for coming in this morning. Members have a number of questions to put to you this morning. So, we'll make a start and we'll go into questions from Laura Jones. Laura.

Thank you, Chair. Good morning. I'm just wondering if you could please outline the recruitment process you've experienced in applying for the role of chief executive of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research, please.

I think, firstly, I'd say that nobody's more surprised to be sitting here than me. So, I was aware, obviously, of the commission and the work that's been discussed over a number of years now, and an appointment wasn't made. And I received a phone call from Odgers Berndtson, the recruitment company that were dealing with this, to ask whether I'd be interested in the role. I hesitated for a moment, spoke to my wife, and said, 'Yes, absolutely, I really would be interested'. So, that was the process as far as I was concerned.

Yes, thank you. Good morning, Simon. I'm just interested: what changed your mind? Obviously, the post was advertised before. You didn't apply when it was first advertised. I'm just interested as to why you changed your mind and, obviously, when approached, you said you were interested.

Cwestiwn da—that's a really good question. I think when the post was advertised last October, around nine or so months ago, I was in the throes of the new term at Bridgend College. We have quite an ambitious strategy there—lots of things that were occupying my mind, and it was something that wasn't really on my mind. And, to be honest, my thoughts were around planning retirement and buying a camper van, if I'm being really honest. So, I knew that the process was going ahead, and then, when I received the call, I think I was in a different place. I think Bridgend College was in a different place in terms of where we were at, in terms of some of our plans coming to fruition, and it felt right. I think sometimes things seem to happen for a reason. If I track my career, sometimes things have just happened and it just felt right. I'm incredibly excited about the work of the commission and always have been since Professor Hazelkorn's work, really, and the report in 2016. I think it's a really ambitious plan, and the more I talk to people across the various parts of the education sector, it's just a wonderful opportunity for Wales to do things differently, I think, in the future.


Thanks, Chair. Hi, Simon. Just to be clear, that phone call from Odgers was the first direct approach that you'd received from either a recruitment agency or civil servants or the Minister. You weren't directly approached when the job went out to advertisement.

Thank you. In your view, do any of the appointments you hold give rise to any potential or perceived conflicts of interest? If so, how do you propose to manage those? Thanks.

I don't think they do. I have held several board positions in the past, but I don't think there's anything that I do that has any potential conflicts of interest. I'm currently a principal of an FE college. I understand that sector. That's where I've been working, quite a lot, in my recent time. But I've got a broad spectrum of educational experience as well across other parts of the sector.

Thank you. What are your reflections on post-16 education in Wales at the current time, and how will the implementation of the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Act 2022 affect the sector, do you think?

I think that, as I said previously, it's a really wonderful opportunity. I think we're pioneers here. I'm interested in some of the work that's happening in, maybe, countries like New Zealand, but across the world it's quite unusual to have a Government that is actually taking this initiative and bringing together these various strands of the different aspects of the post-16 landscape in Wales.

I think there obviously will be anxieties. People will be concerned and worried about their own institutions, the learners in their institutions and the implications that this has, but I think, for me, it's about focusing on the opportunities. If we get this right and make the most of this wonderful opportunity, then maybe some of the things that are troubling us in Wales at the moment, looking at participation rates, quality of outcomes, responding to the needs of employers and the economy, all these things in a more joined-up way, hopefully we'll be able to make a better impact for our nation, moving forward.

Diolch yn fawr a bore da. Oes yna unrhyw agweddau ar y dirwedd addysg a hyfforddiant ôl-16 yng Nghymru rŷch chi'n teimlo'n llai cyfarwydd â nhw? Rŷn ni wedi gweld o'ch cv eich bod chi wedi bod yn rhan o nifer fawr o'r meysydd y bydd y comisiwn newydd yn gorfod delio gyda nhw, ond oes yna rai meysydd rŷch chi'n teimlo'n llai cyfarwydd â nhw, a sut byddwch chi'n dysgu am yr ystod lawn o ddarpariaeth fydd yn dod o dan arolygaeth y comisiwn?

Thank you very much and good morning. Are there any aspects of the post-16 education and training landscape in Wales that you feel less familiar with? We've seen from your cv that you have been engaged with many of the areas that this new commission will have to tackle, but are there any areas that you feel less familiar with, and how will you inform yourself about the full range of provisions that will come under the commission's oversight?

Diolch yn fawr. I've been lucky in my career to work in a range of areas in higher education, FE, in schools, in England, Wales and abroad. I've got a good knowledge of apprenticeship provision in terms of the work that we're doing; we're part of the B-wbl Consortium, led by Pembrokeshire College; really good links in terms of our strategic alliance with the University of South Wales; and adult community learning. So, a whole range of different aspects.

I think, probably, the area that is more of a blind spot for me would be around research, but I'm really looking forward to working with Julie Lydon as chair, with a breadth of experience in HE, and David Sweeney as well, as deputy chair, with a huge background in research. I see us very much as, hopefully, an effective triumvirate, really, bringing together our skills and expertise and knowledge of different aspects of the sector, so that we are able to cover any gaps of knowledge that any one individual might have. I'd also add that I'm extremely impressed with the staff that we have in the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Welsh Government at the moment—huge expertise. And no one person in this role is going to have all the knowledge and experience, but my success, I think, in terms of my career in education, has really relied on putting brilliant people around me that really have those skills and knowledge and expertise that I can drawn on. 


Diolch. Felly, chi'n awgrymu fanna ryw fath o ffordd holistaidd o weithio, yn enwedig, efallai, roeddech chi'n sôn o ran polisi a'r ardal addysg uwch, a datblygu strategaeth o ran hynny. Fyddai hynny'n gywir i ddweud? A sut fyddwch chi—? Ydych chi'n cytuno y byddai cydweithredu a phartneriaeth gyda'r cyrff addysg uwch yng Nghymru yn hanfodol ar gyfer y math hwn o ymagwedd holistaidd, o ran y comisiwn? Byddwch chi yn ceisio sicrhau eich bod chi yn ymgysylltu'n gyson â phartneriaid yn y sector honno'n benodol?

Thank you. So, you're suggesting there some kind of holistic approach, particularly, perhaps, you were talking about HE and policy, and developing a strategy in that regard. Would that be accurate? And how would you—? Do you think that co-operation and partnership with the HE bodies in Wales would be vital for that kind of holistic approach, in terms of the commission? Will you try to make sure you engage continuously with partners in that sector specifically?

Totally agree. I think that—. It's tempting, isn't it, when we're beginning with a new organisation, and bringing people together from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and from Welsh Government, to just have people doing what they've already been doing, because it could be effective, and that can work. But I think that would be a missed opportunity. I think that we need to think holistically in terms of the whole tertiary sector, and setting up this commission is the great opportunity now, at the beginning, to have some of those conversations. 

I'm glad you mentioned collaboration, because I see myself as a really good collaborator, and, again, some of the successes that I've had are around building a positive culture, about listening—I think listening is often an underestimated skill of leaders—listening to the concerns, but also focusing not just on challenges, but the opportunities as well, and what can we achieve by working together. And I have to say, in some of the work that I've done across the four nations, as part of the commission on the college of the future, there's a lot of interest in Wales at the moment, in terms of what we're doing and what we're trying to achieve. And we have a lot of really positive things going on, but we can do so much more, I think. And hopefully, this holistic view that you talked about there, in terms of joining up the thinking and the strategy for post-16, will be better for our people, better for our economy, and better for our nation as well. 

Diolch. Allaf ofyn i chi—? Yn amlwg, fe fydd yna newid; mae'r comisiwn yn cynrychioli newid mawr yn y ffordd rŷn ni'n arolygu'r sector ôl-16. Felly, sut y byddwch chi'n defnyddio unrhyw brofiad blaenorol o reoli newid yn ystod y broses o sefydlu'r comisiwn newydd?

Thank you. Could I ask you—? There will be change; the commission represents a big change in the way that we are overseeing this sector, the post-16 sector. So, how will you use any previous experience of managing organisational change during the process of establishing the new commission?

I think someone once said that the only thing that's constant in education is change, isn't it? We've seen a lot of change in recent years. I think it's about my experience, and, particularly, my recent experience in the last 10 years working at Bridgend College is, as I've said, around the positive culture, about being clear about not always starting with the whats and the hows, but why we do what we do, and creating that compelling vision of what we want Wales to look like in the future. We've got groundbreaking legislation around the well-being of future generations that is encouraging us all to think longer term. And sometimes we get bogged down with the here-and-now challenges. And they're real challenges, and they are difficult. We saw during the pandemic, didn't we, how we had to regroup and think really quickly to deal with a crisis. 

But I think that, in terms of what I've learnt around managing change, it's about bringing people together under that common vision. And, in my experience, anybody that goes into education, just like I found when I drifted into teaching, because I didn't know what else to do, but I knew within the first minute of being in front of a classroom that was my vocation, and that's what I wanted to do—. And just as teachers transformed my life, in terms of my background, that's something that I wanted to do as a practitioner. And as I've become a leader in organisations now, it's still the same, and would still be the same if I am successful and you are happy with me doing this role. 

It's about bringing people together, a common vision, a common purpose, and making things better for the people of Wales. 

Diolch. Ac, wrth gwrs, bydd gan y comisiwn gyllideb sylweddol, un o'r cyllidebau uchaf sy'n cael ei ddyrannu i gorff hyd braich yng Nghymru. Felly, allaf ofyn i chi pa brofiad sydd gyda chi o ymdrin â sefydliad gyda chyllideb o'r maint yma?

Thank you. And, of course, the commission will have a significant budget, one of the highest allocated to an arm's-length body in Wales. So, could I ask you: what experience do you have in dealing with this scale of organisation and budget?

I'd love to be able to tell you that I've handled a budget of this size; I haven't. But I'm not fazed by that. I know, whatever the size of a budget, the books need to balance, and we need to have conversations about how we're actually using the resources that we have. Yes, it is a significant responsibility with a budget of that size. But, as I say to colleagues in work with me at the moment, when they look at the size of their budgets and sometimes get a bit anxious about it, it's just some added zeros on the end, and we still have to think about where we allocate those resources and use that in the best way. But, no, I haven't. But I'm not sure I know anybody that's handled a budget of this size in the past.


Diolch, Sioned. So, just focusing on measuring success, what are the main long-term outcomes that you want to achieve in this role? And how might these change as the new commission is established?

So, I think there are three important strands for me. There are the 11 strategic duties of the commission, the well-being of future generations Act, as I've mentioned as well, in terms of those well-being goals, and there will be a statement of priorities that will come from the Minister to the commission as well. So, I'm mindful of those three pillars, if you like, in terms of producing and working with stakeholders to produce the strategy.

There will, obviously, be key performance indicators, and we'll look at numbers in terms of participation rates, the number of learners that are studying through the medium of Welsh; there's a whole range of things that we could look at there. But I'm also interested in some of those things that sometimes are difficult to measure, but sometimes are really important. There were some questions earlier around collaborating and working together. Sometimes that's to do with the feel—the feel of the sector, the temperature, really, of how they feel that they're being listened to and how the shape or direction of travel is going.

So, obviously, a big part of setting up the commission is thinking about that strategic plan, with key objectives and things that will need to be achieved, with some measurables against it, but also, I would come back as well, it's to get that feel of the culture of the organisation and the sector as well.

So, you talked there about how you'd feel about that and how you'd measure that, and some of the KPIs, as you said. But how do you think you'll measure success in this role? And what will that success look like by the end of your tenure?

I think two strands. One is it's not going to fall over on 1 April 2024, and there are some technical, pragmatic things that need to be done to ensure that there's a smooth transition into the commission, and a learner that is studying in higher education or in FE or in a school sixth form or out in the community in the adult community world shouldn't feel that change, in a sense. So, that's one measure of success.

But I think the other one is about grabbing the opportunity as well—the whole adage of, if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got. There are things that we can do better, I think, in Wales. So, I think we need to start, from the get-go, really, having some of those conversations, what that could look like. I'm acutely aware that, when we talk about change, some people love it and can't wait—I've already had some stakeholders saying, 'You need to do x, y and z on day one'—to others that might be saying, 'It needs to stay as it is because that's really, really working.' So, it's gathering those opinions, listening to people, and I think the measure of success towards the end of my tenure is in terms of that the hard-nosed KPIs should be improving and going in the right direction, but also how do people feel, how do people actually feel about the way that we are operating as a commission, and where we go next.

Brilliant. Is there anything you'd like to give perhaps more detail on, on some of the things that you think could be done better?

Yes. I think one of the things that Professor Hazelkorn talked around was duplication, and I think that's something that we could look at. We know that there are going to be challenging times ahead. One thing is to ask for more money, but, if there is no more money, how better can we use the resources that we've got? We've got significant expertise in all elements of the tertiary sector. So, rather than give you detail here, I think it is really about listening and thinking about how we can better use some of those resources. The participation rates, making sure that we—. There's already some great work happening in terms of widening participation. What more could we be doing there? Is it clear to a learner, around the potential pathways that they have, whether they want to go down through a general education route or a vocational route or a mixture of both? I think there's work to be done there in terms of society, really, in terms of thinking about all these different options that people might have and making sure that young people coming through are aware of those pathways, but also adults too in the workplace, or removed from the workplace, the options they have to re-engage with education, because it is, for me—and I'm a product of this—the key to a successful life and a happy life, I think. 


Thanks, Chair. Simon, you've alluded to the difficulty that you may face in managing expectations, particularly in regard to managing those expectations from people who might want to maintain the status quo, vis à vis stakeholders who want to see significant change. How are you going to manage expectations? And what sort of challenge do you envisage facing with regard to those differing opinions of where the commission should go? 

I think the biggest challenge I've got at the moment is answering that question. That's a really tough one, isn't it? But I think, alluding to some of the things that I've said earlier, it's a very wide sector, with a range of different personalities, views on what we should be doing in education. Someone once said to me that because most people have been to school it makes everyone an expert on education. So, I'm aware of that. But, again, my experience tells me that listening to views—. You don't always necessarily need to agree with everybody, and not everybody's going to be happy. I'm a realist here that, actually, in terms of direction of travel, there will be individuals that will not be happy and others that will be ecstatic. There will be certain things that we might do in the commission where people think things could be moving faster on certain things, and there are all laws of unintended consequences. For me, it's about really listening, really engaging with stakeholders. I think that's so, so important, and, even if people don't agree with the direction of travel, if they feel that they've been listened to and heard that really goes a long way. 

What it comes back to for me is I think this really requires—. Success here really requires leadership from myself, but also leaders of all the organisations in the education sector. And I think it's about placing learner need ahead of institutional need, making sure that we really listen to the views of learners and think about what their needs are for an ever changing world, that is changing at such a fast rate, and we need a tertiary education system that is responding to that. 

Brilliant. Thank you. Aside from the challenge that you've already outlined, about making sure that the commission gets off to a smooth start, what else do you see as immediate challenges, and how do you intend to address them? 

I think it's about what you alluded to there around expectations. My experience of change often tells me that some individuals want change as long as it doesn't affect them, and that's not always possible, is it, to achieve. I think sometimes we're very good at saying something like, 'That needs to change over there, that needs to change over there, but it's okay what's going on here', whereas, really, we need to sometimes take the blinkers off and, actually, really look holistically at the different aspects of the education sector at post-16 and how we can work together more effectively and better in the future. I think, if this just becomes a bun fight around funding, we will have missed an opportunity. This is an opportunity to really think differently about what we want to do for Wales in the future, and that is incredibly exciting. 

Thank you, Ken. How will the commissioning board take account of the learner's voice in all of this? 

It's a really good question, and, again, thinking about some of the work that I've done previously at an organisational level, it's, again, about having those various groups. But there's great work that's happening as part of the children's commissioner's office, but also the views of adult learners as well—. We really need to use some of the structures that are already in place. But also, I’d like to talk directly to learners myself to see what their experience is that they’re currently having and what they think that it should look like in the future. There will be engagement with NUS, and I’ll be looking for which bodies would be really, really good to talk to and to listen to, because I think it really is at the heart of this that, actually, it’s the learners that are at the centre of what we want to do, in terms of their experience, and they’re absolutely pivotal to the future of the commission and what we do.


Diolch, Cadeirydd. Okay. The post-16 sector is very diverse, as we all know; we’ve got our universities, our colleges and others, and they are different, and they’re going to have different needs, different needs for learners, different needs for the institutions. How are you going to manage conflicts of interest between them? And looking at your curriculum vitae, you’ve spent a lot of time in college settings, but how are you going to make sure that everybody makes sure that their views are heard and that their learners are actually receiving the support they want, so that it’s all working together? Because this whole commission bringing everything together is very new, so I just wondered how you’re going to work those conflicts of interests out.

It’s really complex, but again, for me, it’s around scaling-up the things that I’ve actually done at organisational levels in the past. There are lots of different stakeholders with different interests. There will be concerns and anxieties around what it might look like in the future, but again, I keep coming back to: for me, it’s about focusing on the opportunities, the things that we can actually do together, and sometimes that might mean giving up certain things for the common good. And again, if we get the vision right of what we’re actually trying to achieve, and holding fast to that, that that’s becoming something that we keep returning to discussions. I would hope that the vision is something that will bind people together, because it is about: who would not want a Wales that is thriving, that is prosperous, where our population are becoming more educated at higher levels, where we’re reaching some of the marginalised groups that maybe aren’t engaging in education in the way that they could? Who would not want that? So, it’s about having that vision and wanting that and then thinking through how that actually works on the ground.

But I take your point that it’s complex; this is a vast area, bringing people together that have maybe worked more in isolation than together. There are some great collaborative projects happening between institutions already and it’s about building on some of those successes, and I think if COVID taught us anything, it’s about what we can achieve by actually working together and thinking through how we tackle problems.

Good. One thing we like to know in Wales is that we’re a global country as well; we do punch above our weight around the world, and I’m just interested in how you plan to work with stakeholders outside Wales to actually push what we’re actually doing here.

I either agree with you. I think it’s really, really important. We keep describing ourselves as a small, agile nation. It’s really interesting when I talk to some colleagues from other countries, they’re often envious of the fact that we are a small country that can be a little bit more agile. We’ve got good dialogue with decision makers across the piste, and there’s a lot of interest, I think, in Wales.

I was recently in Canada, and talking to colleagues in the college sector there, and some of the challenges are very, very similar; some of them are bespoke. Interestingly, in Quebec, talking about the challenges and opportunities around bilingual education. So, I think it’s really important that we look outwards and that we are also proud as Wales that we’re actually trying to do things differently here. We’re trying to tackle some of the many common problems that we’re seeing across the globe, and again, that’s really exciting as well, I think. There are some practices—. I’ve been talking to some colleagues in Ireland. There are some really interesting things happening in New Zealand at the moment. Some of my colleagues in our sector are in Finland at the moment, talking about some of this. So, it’s important that we look outwards and learn from some of the mistakes, and some of the great things that are happening in other countries across the globe as well.

Final question, if I can, Chair. On relationships, of course, you will be managing the operational side of the commission. I just wondered how you intend to work with the chair and the vice-chair of the commission as well and how you see that relationship developing.


I think it's a really important relationship. I think the chair and deputy chair are very clear around governance versus management. I'm the CEO and that's my job. But there's huge expertise in those two individuals, and I'm really excited about working with them actually in terms of the knowledge that I don't have that they do have. And that discussion around strategy and direction for Wales, I think, is really important and I'm really excited about it. But the relationship and how we work together is critical. I know of their work and in terms of what they've been doing and their successes in the past, and it's building on those and using that expertise, I think.

Just a broader question: you will be managing post-16 education across the country, and I am interested in your personal view on what you think the biggest challenges are for education in Wales at the minute and how you think the commission can help address those.

I think we can do more around widening participation; I think that we can do more around knowledge of the different pathways that people can have. There are challenges around learning, around the impact of structural funds—what that does to different parts of our education sector and how we will cope with that, moving forward as a nation. So, there's a whole myriad of different challenges, but for me, the most important thing in terms of the work of the commission is bringing people together. I would want to be the CEO of an organisation where people are collaborating, working together as the engine room of what's going on there, but work looking outwards to external stakeholders and bringing them together for that common vision. That's the biggest challenge, I think, bringing this together, but maybe not looking at it as a challenge, but a real opportunity to do things differently.

Yes, I've got two questions; I'm going to ask them at the same time. Following on from what James just said about opportunities and coming together in that collaboration, there are real opportunities perhaps around mental and physical health and also the sharing of sporting facilities across the board—maybe something that we need to look at in the future. I'd just like your comments on that. But also, I'd like to just know how you plan to work on a UK level, specifically for HE, given the significant impact of decisions by bodies such as the Office for Students and the impact they have on Wales-based providers. Thank you.

If I take the mental health one first, it's something I'm really passionate about. We've seen huge challenges, particularly during and post COVID, in all aspects of the educational sector. And I think, in terms of the work on the ground, it's one of the biggest challenges that we face in education. There's a really interesting report that I know this committee's been interested in in terms of the work around mental health in the HE sector. There's been some interesting work that I've been involved with as well in terms of the FE sector as well. And I think there are opportunities there, which have been really interesting in recent times, where we've started to, already, collaborate across different parts of the sector in terms of information-sharing protocols—those sorts of things. I see the commission is actually building on some of that work that's already going on.

In answer to your second question, I'm gaining a bit more knowledge about the Office for Students and what's happening on a UK level. I can't say that I'm an expert on that, but one thing that strikes me is the importance of us having an influence and being part of those discussions—that we're not on our own; that things that happen across the UK, and particularly we're seeing it around the HE agenda at the moment, have an impact on what happens in Wales. So, I think it's really important that we are involved and can influence as much as possible in terms of that work that's happening at a UK level.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Mae gen i gwpwl o gwestiynau yn benodol ynglŷn â gweithio gyda rhanddeiliad. Rŷch chi'n ymwybodol, dwi'n siŵr, fod y Ddeddf yn caniatáu i'r Gweinidog ddynodi person i gynghori'r comisiwn ar ei ddyletswydd mewn perthynas â'r Gymraeg, ac mae'r Gweinidog wedi sôn y bydd yn dynodi'r coleg Cymraeg i weithredu'r rôl ymgynghori honno. Felly, oes gennych chi unrhyw farn ynglŷn â'r fath o fframwaith fydd ei angen i sefydlu'r berthynas unigryw hon rhwng y comisiwn a'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, fel y gall y comisiwn elwa o arbenigedd a phrofiad y coleg Cymraeg?

Thank you, Chair. I have a few specific questions on working with stakeholders. You will be aware, I'm sure, that the legislation allows the Minister to designate an individual to advise the commission on their responsibilities in relation to the Welsh language, and the Minister has mentioned that the coleg Cymraeg will take that consultative role. So, do you have any views on the kind of framework that will be needed to establish that unique relationship between the commission and the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, so that the commission can benefit from the expertise and experience of the coleg Cymraeg?


Yes, really committed to the development of the Welsh language. Ambitious plans on a national level in terms of where we want to go in the future. I recently had conversations with Ioan from the coleg around what that could look like and that relationship.

There have already been, for a number of years, some really interesting projects happening across the HE sector and more recently in the FE sector as well. It's interesting that I couldn't get my hands on the data around apprenticeships. I suspect it's low in terms of the numbers doing apprenticeships through the medium of Welsh, and I think, for me, it's about—. There's a real commitment to this around not just the cultural aspect here of what we're actually doing in Wales, but an economic aspect as well. I have two daughters that have been through school through the medium of Welsh. One is a Welsh teacher. And, yes, it's great in terms of that cultural value that we have in Wales, but a really great opportunity in terms of the economic value to individuals as well, and I think that's something that maybe we don't always emphasise as much as some of the obvious cultural benefits that we have in Wales.

In terms of working with the coleg, it's trying to build the demand, isn't it? I know from the work that I've done that often there are issues there around critical mass and how we might do that, but there are ways in which—. And I would be looking to the coleg to advise the commission on that, and build on some of the successes that have already happened, but we are looking for a step change here, aren't we, a gear change, particularly if we're going to meet the target of 'Cymraeg 2050'—a very ambitious target. And again, education and starting even pre-16 in terms of where we go with that is going to be very, very important.

So, I'm very keen to work closely with the coleg to think about what that could look like, and how could it be different from where we are now. We've had some successes, but what would that gear change look like, and how could we work together to actually promote that in the future.

Ie, felly, yr hyn sy'n cael ei nodi yn y Ddeddf, a dweud y gwir, o ran dyletswydd y comisiwn i annog, nid yn unig i gwrdd â'r galw ar gyfer addysg drydyddol cyfrwng Cymraeg.

Yes, so, what's set out in the legislation in terms of the duty of the commission to encourage, not just to meet demand for Welsh-medium tertiary education.

Felly, un cwestiwn bach arall ynglŷn â llais y dysgwr. Yn amlwg, mae hynny yn rhywbeth rŷch chi'n teimlo'n angerddol drosto fe, ac roeddem ni fel pwyllgor, wrth graffu'r Ddeddf, yn awyddus iawn i weld hynny ar wyneb y Bil.

Rŷch chi'n ymwybodol, wrth gwrs, taw aelod cysylltiol o'r bwrdd fydd cynrychiolydd o'r undeb myfyrwyr, a dim hawliau pleidleisio ganddyn nhw, felly sut fyddwch chi'n gwneud yn siŵr bod yr ymgysylltu gyda myfyrwyr, gyda dysgwyr yn gyffredinol, yn un ystyrlon?

So, one further question on the learner voice. Clearly, that's something you feel passionate about, and we as a committee in scrutinising the Bill were very eager to see that included on the face of the legislation. 

You will be aware that the student union representative will be an associate member of the board, and they won't have voting rights, so how will you ensure that that engagement with students and learners more generally is meaningful?

Again, a really good question. I'm not too bound around voting rights. I'm thinking about work that I've done with boards, or whatever, that actually if you come to a vote, that's usually a really sticky situation where you haven't got a consensus, and actually associate members still need to have that voice, and that voice needs to be listened to and heard. That would be my approach, really, in terms of making sure that the voice of learners is really listened to. We've got other mechanisms outside of the board meeting structures, around the commission, that I think that would be open to us to actually really get the views of young people as well. But I agree with you. It's absolutely pivotal to the work of the commission, because we could go off in a direction here, but unless it's actually meeting the needs of learners, then we will have maybe hit some targets but missed the point, so I think it's really important.

Yes. Just picking up a point, this is about an area that I really care about, actually on apprenticeships, and especially degree apprenticeships as well. I'm just interested in your views on this, as you're going to be leading the organisation, going forward. Do you think degree apprenticeships is an area that needs a lot more work on and more focus to widen the base of what we have here in Wales, and is that something that you'd be looking to do as chief executive, working, of course, with the Welsh Government on that?


The simple answer to that is 'yes'. I think there are real opportunities to grow degree apprenticeships, to look at the models and how we're doing that. It's interesting, just looking over the border in terms of a different feel in terms of numbers and routes around that, and I think that's something, definitely, that we should be exploring in Wales. 

Thank you, Chair, and thank you for joining us this morning. How will you establish the commission's relationship with the Welsh Government whilst preserving the independence of the commission?

Again, a really good question. The Welsh Government is a major stakeholder here. You mentioned earlier the size of the budget. There's a significant investment of public money going into this work, and the Welsh Government, quite rightly, needs to hold the commission to account. This committee, I think, is really important in that, in seeing where that money goes. So, a very important stakeholder there, but there are other really key players; we talked about the coleg earlier, and other stakeholders across the institutions and different bodies. And again, my approach would be similar for all of them, in a sense, in terms of listening to and understanding their wants and needs, and what their concerns are, and how they see some of the opportunities, and building a strategy that is never going to please everybody—all the people all of the time—but, actually, builds on a consensus under a vision. I'm not sure if I've answered your question there, but that would be my approach. 

Thank you. In what ways do you envisage working with Members of the Senedd, and the Senedd's committees, and for what reasons?

I mentioned the importance of this committee, and, depending on what you think of me, I may be here again in front of you. But in terms of being held to account and having that scrutiny—. But also, this is a pan-Wales initiative. This is big stuff. This is a big change for Wales. I think it's in everyone's interests that this succeeds, and that we build on the potential excitement around this to make Wales a better Wales. This committee, I think, is absolutely critical. We have Members from across the political spectrum here that need to have the assurance that we're doing the right things in the right way, and are really hitting the spot for Wales. 

Just on Buffy's first question about independence from the Welsh Government, in the setting up of this commission, we had a lot of evidence from a lot of stakeholders who were very concerned about the Welsh Government's involvement and how independent the commission was going to be from Welsh Government Ministers. I'm just interested in how comfortable you would be pushing back against, perhaps, Ministers trying to interfere, shall we say, in the day-to-day running of the commission, and how you would manage that, because it was something that stakeholders were really concerned about. 

I'd have no problem with that. Obviously, there would be a statement of priorities that will come from the Minister to the commission. But again, both in terms of the values of the commission, but also my personal values as well, if that was something in a direction that actually was against the real needs of learners, against the needs of what we might need to do in Wales, in terms of our economy, I'd have no problem with questioning and pushing back on that at all. 

That's really good to hear, and I'm sure stakeholders who are watching these proceedings will be glad to hear that. Thank you. 

Jest un cwestiwn cyflym gen i. Rŷn ni wedi clywed y newyddion yn ddiweddar, ac rŷn ni i gyd sydd â phrifysgolion yn ein rhanbarthau ni wedi derbyn gohebiaeth, ynglŷn â'r gofid o ran y sector ymchwil a datblygu. Yn amlwg, mae ymchwil yn rhan o ddyletswydd statudol y corff; mae e yn y teitl. Liciwn i jest wybod beth yw'ch teimladau chi ynglŷn â pha fath o flaenoriaeth fydd y sector ymchwil yng Nghymru, yn benodol yn ein sefydliadau addysg uwch ni, i'r comisiwn yn y tymor byr, wrth i chi ddechrau ar eich gwaith, gan ein bod ni'n gwybod bod yna gannoedd o swyddi ar hyn o bryd wedi diflannu, ac mewn perygl o ddiflannu.

Just a brief question from me. We heard in the news recently, and all of us who have universities in our regions will have received correspondence, about concerns in terms of the research and development sector. Clearly, research is part of the statutory duties of the body; it's contained within the title. I would just like to know what your feelings are on what kind of priority will be placed on the research sector in Wales, and specifically in our HE institutions, by the commission in the short term, as you begin your work, because we do know that there are hundreds of jobs that are at risk of disappearing. 


I know that's a hot topic, and I can't say that my knowledge in terms of research projects is in depth. My feeling is that we've got a number of really high-quality research projects happening across Wales, and that it's important that we see those develop and flourish and making a big impact in terms of some of the work that's happening, for example, in some of our manufacturing industries.

I suppose the tension across the piste is that it's a big budget, but it has a limit to that envelope in terms of where we move money to and from and in terms of what impact that might have. But it is a concern. I'm aware of the Welsh Affairs Committee's meeting yesterday and I listened to some of the comments that were made there, and it's worrying for those people involved, those individuals involved in those projects, but also in terms of the bigger picture in terms of what we're doing in Wales. So, I couldn't give you a straight answer on that, I'm afraid, in terms of a silver-bullet answer to that at the moment. I suppose, if it was that simple, it would have been done by now. But it is something that I'm very mindful of in terms of some of the excellence we have as well in Wales.

Interestingly, in other parts of the world that I've visited, it's really interesting to see that some of the college sector are involved in applied research projects, particularly working with local SMEs; I've seen that in Brazil and in Canada. That's interesting as well, and maybe something that the FE sector in Wales doesn't do to the same extent. There are some pockets of it. So, I think, again, taking that view holistically in terms of what we're doing is really important. 

Thank you, Sioned. I can see no more questions from Members, so I'd just like to thank you very much for coming in this morning. A transcript will be sent to you in due course to check, and also the committee will be publishing a report on the appointment, which will be published no later than Friday 9 June. Diolch yn fawr. Thank you for coming in.

Diolch yn fawr. Thank you for your time. 

3. Papurau i'w nodi
3. Papers to note

We'll now move on to item 3, which is our papers to note. There are five papers to note on the agenda and in the paper pack. Are Members content to note the papers together? I can see Members are. Thank you.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod hwn
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

We'll now move on to item 4, which is the motion to move into private session. I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of this meeting. Are Members content? Yes. We will now proceed to meet in private.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:18.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:18.